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What the Army veterans say about politicising surgical strikes


New Delhi, Jan 2: A little over two years ago Indian Special Forces carried out "surgical strikes" on terror launch pads across the Line of Control. Days after the strikes, the BJP-led government went hammer and tongs publicising it. The BJP dispensation went to an extent that the strikes widely featured during the run up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of 2016.

While some felt that publicising it the way it was done was not a good idea, others said that it was needed to send across a strong message to Pakistan that India would no longer sit back and tolerate attacks such as the ones in Pathankot and Uri.

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The BJP led government used the surgical strikes to its political advantage. Rarely did an election rally addressed by PM Modi or Shah not seen prominent mention of surgical strikes. But by doing so, did the government undermined military value of it?.

In December 2018, former Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General (retired) DS Hooda, who was part of the planning team for the strikes on Pakistani terror launchpads, stirred a hornet's nest by saying that the strikes were politicised and overhyped.

OneIndia spoke to several Army Veterans and defence experts on this issue. Defence and strategic affairs expert Col Jaibans Singh said that it is not for the Army to tell how the politics of a particular military operation would be played out. He said that the job of the Army was to carryout an operation which was needed, and after that it is upto the government how they want to publicise it.

"I do not think it has been politicised. The surgical strike was done to give a message to the world. It was not done to just avenge Uri or Pathankot. Its bigger aim was to give a message to the world that if Pakistan does not stop doing what it is then we are not going to stay in our territory as is our policy. Surgical strike was a tactical operation. It was not a big one. It was a very small tactical operation, this kind of tactical operations at a much smaller scale have been happening since LOC came into existence," Col Singh told OneIndia.

Never before has a single operation been politically milked as much as to make the government order the Army to commemorate the second anniversary of the surgical strike countrywide.

Why not politicise surgical strike?

Defence expert Major General PK Sehgal told OneIndia that there was nothing wrong in politicising a military operations as other countries have also done it.

"I have greatest of respect for Lt Gen Hooda. But having said that, I don't agree with his views at all. It has definately been politicised, there is no denying that. But every country that takes such risks uses it to advantage. The Americans strike at Abbotabad where they assassinated Osama Bin laden, Obama took political advantage and easily won next term. Similarly, Prime Minister of Israel called Rabin, when they carried out attack at Entebe, where they rescued 98 people, he took political advantage and won next elections," Major General Sehgal said.

"And those who failed like John F Kennedy under whose regime an operation called bay of pigs was carried out on Cuba. That turned out to be a fiasco and that was one of the reasons for Kennedy's assasination. Then Jimmy Carter carried out a operation to rescue American 52 hostages from Iran. That turned out to be a fiasco and Jimmy Carter lost the next elections. Then Bush's Black Hawk Down in Somalia, where Americans suffered after which Bush Senior did not win the next elections," he added.

[Surgical strikes decision was a 'big risk', Was concerned about our soldiers: PM Modi]

He said PM Modi took a big risk by authorising the strikes, so he has every right to politicise it. It must be understood that Lt Gen Hooda never said that such strikes are wrong, but his objections was about publicising it the way it was done. Major General Sehgal said that carrying out the operation was the job of the Army and what how government publicises is it is none of the military's prerogative.

"So this was a decision taken at the highest government level. It was a very risky decision. Supposing this operation had resulted in massacre for the Indian Army then it would have been very difficult fot the government of the day to have survived," he said.

"So by Gen Hooda saying that it has been politicised, my contention is why should it not be politicised. They are not bringing in the army into politics, but it is about the decision of the surgical strike. The surgical strike went like a clockwork precision. All the people who went came back 100%. It is something that is unheard of. Even when Americans assassinated Osama they lost one helicopter. In Entebbe, unit commander Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu died," he added.

[Mini surgical strikes: India hits Pak army HQ along LoC]

Furthermore, if the operation had failed then the Pakistan backed terrorists would have been emboldened, Islamabad would have left no stone unturned to defame Indian Armed forces. By publicising the surgical strike, the government has also boosted the moral of the nation. Also, instead of waiting for 30 months, Lt General Hooda and other commanders in the loop should have warned Prime Minister Modi against turning military strikes into a political football.

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